Eudora Welty spoke about place as an awareness that precedes all good writing. "Place in fiction is the named, identified, concrete, exact and exacting, and therefore credible, gathering spot of all that has been felt, is about to be experienced, in the novel’s progress," she wrote. "Every story would be another story, and unrecognizable as art, if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else.”
For writers like Welty, a strong sense of place was not just useful but necessary. Characters and situations never exist independent of their places and contexts. But what makes "place" different from "setting," and how do they relate to the other elements of fiction? In this course, we'll try to answer these questions.
By reading the work of writers who care deeply about place—such as Lucia Berlin, Chinua Achebe, and Patricia Lockwood—we'll investigate how place is evoked, and how it gives rise to and enriches our stories. We'll look at places both rural and urban, familiar and unfamiliar, paying special attention to the ways in which landscape, politics, and opportunity affect both language and thought.
Each student will be workshopped twice, complete a weekly craft assignment, and provide written feedback to their peers. I'll also meet with each student for a brief one-on-one conversation about their work. The course is open to all writers, with any level of experience. At the end of the six weeks, students will leave with a toolbox of craft knowledge and a greater understanding of how place operates in literature and in their own work.
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- Understand the craft elements that make up all fiction, especially as they relate to place
- Receive instructor and peer feedback on two pieces of fiction
- Explore the process of writing—gathering material, taking notes, cultivating attention
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
- Workshop submissions will be limited to 12 pages, double-spaced, 12 point font.
- Students will be expected to write feedback letters (at least 500 words) on their peers' workshop submissions.
- Each week, we'll discuss a published story or excerpt. Students are expected to complete the readings and come to class ready for a nuanced conversation.
- Short craft assignments will also be completed on a weekly basis.
Week 1 - Introduction, discussion of place (no workshop)
Week 2 - Point-of-View; workshop
Week 3 - Description and Imagery; workshop
Week 4 - Character; workshop
Week 5 - Plot; Workshop
Week 6 - Time and Structure; workshop
“It’s one thing for a writer to have great eye and another for him to know what it’s for. Lee Cole’s constantly roving eye is sharp and unerring and it misses exactly nothing. In his debut novel, GROUNDSKEEPING, he witnesses with great sympathy the painful passage between youth and adulthood that leaves us all the worse for wear.”
“GROUNDSKEEPING is a smart, funny, exhilarating debut about that time in life when you are clawing your way to a future that feels murky and impossible to reach. Lee Cole takes a hard look at our fraught cultural moment, our divides large and small, with fresh insight and wisdom and tenderness. I truly loved it.”
“Scrupulously perceptive . . . GROUNDSKEEPING is filled with close observation, detailed shading. It is an absorbing love story, but it is also an examination of class in America, and it captures with sharp insight a moment in recent history.”
“An extraordinary debut about the ties that bind families together and tear them apart across generations–this is a fierce, tender, and wholly unforgettable work from a hugely gifted writer.”
“A coming-of-age story inextricably bound with a love story, GROUNDSKEEPING gets at the hard work of finding your place in the world, the burden and exhilaration of fighting for who you might be . . . It’s frankly preposterous this is a debut novel when Lee Cole’s writing has such ease and authority and his storytelling rings so true.”